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5 easy ways to choose mouth-watering meat-free meals

Progress over perfection is a mantra worth sticking onto your laptop. One way it shows is through foodies worldwide who opt for “flexitarian diets” (a vegetarian diet and occasionally eating meat) or a “reducetarian diet” (the practice of eating less meat). Curiosity sent me down both these paths. It started with that strange feeling about an uncooked meat patty and resulted in me being a reducetarian without realising it! Now I’m happily vegetarian with all the fantastic food options.

Delicious “meatless” or meat-free meals are everywhere when you look out for them.
© Canva WWF South Africa
Delicious “meatless” or meat-free meals are everywhere when you look out for them.
Every journey starts with one step

My journey as an animal lover, a foodie and a yogi catapulted when I started cooking in our self-catering campus res kitchen. I must admit, though, it took time (and some “Eat, Pray, Love”) to make the connection between the animals I chose to love, and the chicken burger and calamari I also loved.

Slowly becoming aware of the effect of food on my mind and body, I started experimenting. Our body is our greatest wing wo/man, signalling what to reject, speaking from experience.

So, I could say I didn’t choose the plant-based life, the plant-based life chose me!

As an environmentalist, I know that supporting the meat industry has a higher carbon footprint than eating plant-based foods. The philosopher in me was also more than happy to conquer my cognitive dissonance. And before I knew it, I waved goodbye to meat.

As a foodie, I was not prepared to miss out on exquisite culinary experiences, so I sought out different ones instead – exotic and refreshing plant-based meals. And it has been a delicious and rewarding journey that I relish every day.

There are increasingly more and more plant-based meal options available, and so many people are hopping on board whether for health reasons, environmental or other reason. See what the fuss is about and explore what makes you feel good inside!

Here are five easy ways for you to choose plant-based, meat-free meals that will tantalise your tastebuds on this adventure.

#1 Order a meatless restaurant meal

Sinking your teeth into a burger patty or pizza is still possible when choosing to be plant-based. These days, meat-free meal options exist on most menus. Going meatless doesn’t have to mean choosing salad from a menu (but it can). The “junk food” trend is big with vegetarians. We’re talking a good ol’ margarita pizza, veggie pasta, vegan burger, vegetarian snack board, saucy baked potato spud and modern toasties (in moderation). On the health-conscious side, restaurants like Kauai have got you covered, plus there are plenty of fabulous curry dens to consider!

Curry houses offer an amazing variety of vegetarian dishes with incredible flavours.
© Canva WWF South Africa
Curry houses offer an amazing variety of vegetarian dishes with incredible flavours.
#2 Do a plant-based trolley dash through your supermarket

I am often asked, “What do you eat as a vegetarian?”

Well, the simple answer is: Everything besides what’s in the meat aisle!

Whether you usually do the shopping or not, take a trolley dash or a leisurely stroll through your local supermarket and look for what non-meat options are on offer. Some retailers group products for specific recipes, creating Italian pasta corners, Asian stir fry trays, Thai curry packs or Mexican taco kits.

Woolworths has its own impressive plant-based range, whilst Checkers stocks specific stellar products such as Linda McCartney burgers, Future Farm Meatballs and Kauai’s No Bull Patties. Such a treat to get consistent flavour quality at supermarket prices, and you can then cook a delicious meal at home!

One of Kirtanya’s favourite home-cooked dishes is spicy plant-based mince and black bean tacos.
© Canva WWF South Africa
One of Kirtanya’s favourite home-cooked dishes is spicy plant-based mince and black bean tacos.
#3 Get creative in your own kitchen

No matter how often you cook, you may be surprised by your hidden talents! And the best way to control how you feel, is by choosing what you put into your body. Choosing food that's nourishing for you and the planet is an underrated #lifegoal.

Knowing what’s on your plate and the energy that went into producing it is easier to do when you prepare the food yourself. Warning: The sense of accomplishment when cooking is mildly addictive.

An easy any-day treat for my husband and me is a spicy plant-based mince and black bean tacos. In winter, I also love cooking a comforting dhal, butternut soup or veggie stew. They all make for a nourishing night-time meal or a light lunch. Coconut chickpea curry, plant-based chicken korma or mushroom a la king are hearty options too. Why not initiate a stir fry cook-off with your family or a DIY pizza day with a few bowls of fresh veggie options to inspire?

Day or night, plant-based burgers are all the craze, and guilt-free too!
© Canva WWF South Africa
Day or night, plant-based burgers are all the craze, and guilt-free too!
#4 Choose meat-free on your next takeaway delivery

Options overflow for the lazy lunch or weekday dinner. As Einstein said, “We cannot do the same thing and expect different results”. Try something new!

The Vegan Chef is popular in Joburg and Durbs, I would highly recommend that you try their crispy burger! On the east coast, Oh my Soul in Durban is sure to hit the spot with their zingalings, fully loaded sweet potatoes, chickless mayo toastie and gourmet milkshakes. Cape Town’s Plant is sure to please with their breakfasts, bao buns, poppers and Mexican meals. In the Cape, the list goes on.

Nationally, Spur and Mugg & Bean are firm favourites with fantastic plant-based menu options.

Forget carrot and cucumber sticks, colourful plant-based boards are full of flavour and texture too.
© Canva WWF South Africa
Forget carrot and cucumber sticks, colourful plant-based boards are full of flavour and texture too.
#5 Take a plant-based platter to a potluck or dinner party

Never underestimate what you bring to the table! Why not show-off your new plant-inspired tricks and tasty treats to friends and family by bringing a plant-based platter the next time you are asked to provide a dish. There are many different takes on the usual boards and snack platters. We’re talking TikTok butter boards, cheese platters with a WWF Conservation Champion wine, homemade dips with crackers or easy oven bakes. Mainstream meat-free!

Sharing platters are also great for an ice breaker or to encourage table talk, because caring is cool.

PS: for the seafood-loving flexitarians

If you want to cut down on red meat and opt for seafood instead, do check out the WWF-SASSI App to help you make sustainable seafood choices! Whether flexitarian, reducetarian or vegetarian is for you – the options are endless and exciting.

Dare to be different. Set a trend, try something new and see how it makes you feel. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Small actions = big change. Choosing a meat-free meal today is life-changing in so many ways. We love it for the planet, and for you!

(Disclaimer: No animals were harmed in the writing of this blog)

Kirtanya Lutchminarayan
Kirtanya Maharaj , WWF-SASSI Project Officer: Marine Portfolio

Biophile, treading lightly, making science and sustainability accessible.

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